Truth in Interviews

By Jeanne E. Murphy posted 03-06-2017 10:59


There are people in our lives we rely on to tell us the truth, such as our financial advisor, the humane society worker talking about your possible future dog, and elected officials. Job applicants are not in that category. Does anyone really expect an honest answer to "What is your biggest weakness?" That question, as well as others ("Where do you see yourself in five years?"), seem designed to determine whether the job applicant is smart enough to lie to get to a good answer rather than to tell the truth. (Which means the only appropriate answer regarding your weakness is “I’m too honest.”)

But there is a point at which fudging the truth during the job application process can not only cost you the position but also get you disbarred. In a recent case  before the Attorney Discipline Board, an attorney lost his law license due to numerous misrepresentations, including in his résumé, in which he claimed he was a member of the USA Field Hockey squad that participated in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He may have been onto something with the choice of field hockey as an extracurricular pursuit as a study found that listing high-end hobbies (think sailing and polo rather than track and pickup soccer) helped men get interviews for summer associate positions in big law firms. But he spread the net of misinformation about himself too wide and to too many people, misrepresenting his education, work history, and law licenses to get jobs with various firms and businesses.

For those of you who are facing a job interview, the trick is to straddle the fence, to opt for truthiness rather than being completely accurate. Here are some excellent questions that you should be prepared to answer in a way that makes you seem smart, motivated, and committed to whatever organization you are applying to work for. And for those of you who want to be able to say that your greatest weakness is being paralyzed when under pressure and that in five years you want to be making doll furniture full time, you should probably resign yourself to not getting the job.